Brussels, a city of secrets: 10 mysterious places to discover
- Rue Marché-aux-herbes
If you like breweries, but you are looking for authenticity… Don’t hesitate to enter the small alleyways of the rue Marché-aux-herbes where the hidden cafes of Brussels’ historic centre can be found. Toone at No. 66, decorated with its famous puppets, is the most well-known. You can also sit comfortably at L’imaige Notre-Dame at No. 8 and Au bon vieux temps at the end of the cul-de-sac Saint-Nicolas. Enjoy your beers in a traditional setting and atmosphere. For poets, it’s at the Fleur en papier doré (55, rue des Alexiens) that you’ll be able to have something to eat at the table of some noteworthy figures of twentieth century Belgian surrealism, such as René Magritte, Louis Scutenaire, Marcel Mariën… You’ll be able to read on its walls the words how this place place had inspired them.
- Parc du Palais d'Egmont
Fancy a little greenery? Go in search of the discrete entrance of the Parc du Palais d'Egmont, Boulevard de Waterloo (I let you discover the number). This park is entirely surrounded by houses, therefore people in a hurry miss the opportunity to stroll in this greenery. Look for the magical statue of Peter Pan, offered by the children of London to Belgian children after the First World War; and walk in the words of Marguerite Yourcenar, engraved in the stone.
- Cinquantenaire Arcades
If you like to take go heigh and you have already visited the classics such as the Atomium, Basilica and Place Poelaert, why not get on top of the Cinquantenaire Arcades? Yes, it’s actually possible, you’ll find the way up through the Army Museum. A nice opportunity to change the viewpoint!
- Sewer Museum
Fans of urban legends? Check if crocodiles really live in the sewers of Brussels, by visiting the Sewer Museum. You will soon realise that the capital city is a true Gruyere and that under our feet are hidden mysterious passages, populated with animals whose presence we would like to forget.
- Grand Place & Town Hall
If you prefer esoteric mysteries try to decipher the alchemical symbols of the Grand Place. Paul de Saint-Hilaire in his book "Brussels, a thousand years of mysteries" was persuaded that the secret of the philosopher's stone lies somewhere there... If not, find out the peculiarities of the Town Hall, which inspired the legend of its architect’s suicide!
- Rue de Une personne
How about impressing your friends from Brussels, by making them discover a street they don’t know? Look for rue de Une personne, in the rue des Bouchers! This street, so narrow that people can walk in it only by one by one, allowed, in the Brussels’ historic centre, for prostitutes to attract men into their houses by pricking their hats! It appears that some rabble also used its narrowness to carry out ambushes. This time is now gone!
- Palais de Justice
It surely would’t occur to you to visit the courts of a city you visit for first time. Step through the scaffolding of the Palais de Justice and discover the largest courthouse in the world and feel the weight and the force of judgments upon you. Look for the sphinx, and find your way through the labyrinth of rooms to discover why the expression "Schieve architect" has become an insult in the neighbourhood of the Marolles, just below. Above all you might try to find out if the architect Poelaert was not part of a sect made up of artists, politicians and economists who set out on the somewhat crazy idea of a parallel city in Brussels, called Brüsel. If you’re interested, get the DVD of "Dossier B" by Benoît Peeters and François Schuiten. This documentary will unveil the results of their investigation about the existence of this mysterious city…
- Parc Royal and the Place du Jeu de Balles
Concerned about the evolution of the world, uncover the site of bunkers and anti-atomic shelters of the Parc Royal and the Place du Jeu de Balles, in order to book your place. The one in Parc Royal being destined, at first sight, only to the Government and the royal family, you will have to be persuasive!
- Museum of Freemasonry
If you are fascinated by secret societies discover the Museum of Freemasonry (73, rue de Laeken) and their magnificent collection of symbolic objects. Check with them if the landscape of the Parc Royal actually draws a compass, one of their best known symbols. But before you go to the museum, you will first need to discover the initiatory inscription V.I.T.R.I.O.L. engraved on one of the walls of the park.
- Cemetery of Laeken
Finally, lose yourself in the famous cemetery of Laeken to admire its splendid tombs and their peculiarities, trees growing on the tombstones, the dolmen, the tomb of the famous opera singer La Malibran and the Thinker of Rodin. Wander around the silent crypt and listen to what the deceased have to tell. Take advantage of being nearby the Church of Notre Dame de Laeken, where you will discover the royal crypt and the tomb of King Leopold III buried with his two wives in the same vault!
Don’t be afraid to look around, to question, to decipher the signs that are around you and the secrets of Brussels will be revealed to you! If you want to know more about the rumours and urban legends of the city, take part in the Brussels Urban Legends Tour, an offbeat guided tour that will cut through the usual tourist visits!